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Spotlight on the Canals - The Kennet & Avon Canal

…soaring aqueducts, prehistoric landscapes and a World Heritage City.

One of our best-loved canals, the 87-mile long Kennet & Avon Canal links the Bristol Avon with the Thames at Reading, passing through spectacular landscapes and the World Heritage City of Bath.

From the foothills of the Cotswolds to the North West Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and Vale of Pewsey dotted with pre-historic features, this canal offers the chance to enjoy some of England’s most beautiful countryside.

Completed in 1810, the Kennet & Avon Canal is made up of two lengths of navigable rivers linked by a canal. From Bristol to Bath in the west the route follows the Bristol Avon, and at the eastern end, the River Kennet from Newbury to Reading.

The waterway has 105 locks along its length, including 29 at the dramatic Caen Hill locks in Devizes, as well two stunning Bath stone aqueducts at Avoncliff and Dundas, designed by the pioneering canal engineer John Rennie.

Best for beginners…

From our base at Bradford on Avon on the Kennet & Avon Canal in Wiltshire, Bath Top Lock is a lovely six-hour, one-lock cruise away - perfect for a short break for beginners.

Skirting the southern foothills of the Cotswolds and passing through the picturesque Avon Valley, the journey begins close to Bradford on Avon’s magnificent medieval Tithe Barn and the popular canalside ‘Barge Inn’.

From there, the route passes over Avoncliff and Dundas aqueducts, past Claverton Pumping Station with its 200-year water-driven pump lifting water 48ft from the River Avon to the canal above. There’s a series of historic pubs and waterside eateries to enjoy along the way, including ‘The Cross Guns’ at Avoncliff, ‘The George’ at Bathampton and ‘The Angelfish Restaurant’ at Monkton Combe, with panoramic views across the Limpley Stoke Valley.

Once moored at Bath Top Lock, boaters can walk into the centre of the City in just 15 minutes to enjoy all that the World Heritage Status City of Bath has to offer – the ancient Roman Baths, the sweeping line of 30 Grade I listed Georgian terrace houses that make up the Royal Crescent and medieval Bath Abbey with its fascinating ladders of angels climbing up the West front.

Recommended places to eat in Bath include the Italian ‘Sotto Sotto’ on North Parade and the ‘Green Park Brasserie & Bar’ at Green Park Station, which often hosts live music in the evenings.

Best for experienced boaters…

On a week’s break from Bath or Bradford on Avon, canal boat holiday-makers can travel east to the pretty village of Great Bedwyn and back, passing through tranquil Wiltshire countryside past sleepy villages, and tackling the magnificent Caen Hill flight of locks at Devizes along the way.

Once at Devizes, visitors to this historic market town can enjoy the Wadworth Brewery Visitor Centre with its famous shire horses making daily deliveries, and sample delicious food at some of the town’s independent shops and restaurants, including seasonal favourites at the AA 5* ‘Peppermill Restaurant’ and the famous Devizes Cheesecake at the ‘Dolcipani Bakery’.

Then it’s on through the Vale of Pewsey, passing close to the Avebury Stone Circle, looking out for a Wiltshire White Horse on the hillside and stopping to see the striking painting on the ceiling of ‘The Barge Inn’ at Honeystreet, with the subject matter reflecting the pub’s proximity to many crop-circles.

At the tiny hamlet of Wootton Rivers on the edge of the ancient Savernake Forest, boaters can stop for refreshment at the pretty thatched ‘Royal Oak’ pub, soon after reaching the Kennet & Avon’s only tunnel – the 459-metre long Bruce Tunnel.

Then it’s down the Crofton flight and on to Crofton Pumping Station, home to two of the World’s oldest working steam beam engines, and neighbouring Wilton Water, created to supply the pumping station and feed the canal summit, now a haven for wildlife.

On reaching Great Bedwyn, boaters can turn and enjoy a visit to the village’s intriguing Stone Museum and choice of historic local pubs, including ‘The Cross Keys’ with Saturday night live music.

On a two-week break, narrowboat holiday-makers can travel on to Reading, passing through Hungerford with antique shops dotted along its High Street, the village of Kintbury with its ‘Dundas Arms’ gastro pub and the historic market town of Newbury, with a variety of arts venues including The Corn Exchange and Watermill Theatre, and nearby Highclere Castle, home of Downton Abbey.

To make a booking or to get friendly advice on canal holidays, please call our Booking Office on 0117 304 1122.